Improving literacy among our youth
Literacy is not merely about reading and writing, it is the foundation upon which a thriving society is built.

As educators we bear witness to the transformative power of literacy every day in our classrooms. We see first-hand the doors it opens, the opportunities it creates, and the minds it ignites.

In a society like Jamaica in which education is the cornerstone of progress, the celebration of Literacy Day takes on profound significance. It is, therefore, imperative that light is shed on the importance of literacy in the Jamaican society, the need to embrace Literacy Day, and how educators, schools, parents, and policymakers can collaborate to foster greater literacy levels, emphasizing that literacy begins in the home.

The Essence of Literacy

Literacy is not merely about reading and writing, it is the foundation upon which a thriving society is built. In Jamaica, a nation with a rich cultural tapestry, literacy is the key to preserving and celebrating our heritage. It empowers individuals to express themselves, engage in meaningful dialogue, and participate actively in the social, economic, and political life of the country.

From a teacher's perspective, literacy is the vehicle that transports our students to worlds beyond their imagination. It equips them with the tools to comprehend complex ideas, communicate effectively, and navigate the information age. Moreover, literacy is the catalyst for lifelong learning, enabling individuals to adapt to the ever-evolving demands of the modern world.

Literacy is the key to preserving and celebrating our heritage.

Embracing literacy in Jamaica

Celebrating International Literacy Day in Jamaica is not just an observance; it is a call to action. It is an opportunity to recognise the progress we have made and the challenges that lie ahead.

More importantly, the day was first observed by UNESCO in 1967 and is globally celebrated on September 8 each year, which is a reminder that literacy is not a luxury but a fundamental right for all.

Educators, schools, parents, and policymakers must come together to promote literacy in our society. Here are some suggestions:

1) Promote a culture of reading: This involves encouraging daily reading habits, whether in the classroom or beyond. It entails rebranding school and community libraries as vibrant hubs of knowledge and imagination, fostering a love for books and learning even within the technological age. Additionally, celebrating Jamaican authors and literature plays a pivotal role in connecting students with their rich cultural heritage, providing them with a deeper appreciation of their roots and the broader world of literature.

2) Foster parental involvement: Parents must be encouraged to read with their children from an early age; literacy starts at home. Additionally, organising workshops and seminars can provide parents with the tools to actively support their children's literacy development while highlighting the significance of storytelling and oral traditions deeply embedded in Jamaican culture.

3) Engage in multi-sectoral collaboration: Effective literacy promotion necessitates policymakers collaborating closely with educators (literacy coaches) to craft comprehensive literacy programmes and policies that reflect the specific needs of their communities.

This collaborative effort should extend to forming strategic partnerships with local businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to secure essential resources and support for literacy initiatives. Moreover, an inclusive approach should be adopted, focusing on implementing holistic strategies that cater to the diverse educational requirements of learners, including those with special needs, ensuring that no one is left behind in the journey towards improved literacy.

Furthermore, the media could also be a vital tool to boost literacy and literary campaigns for Jamaicans through strategic and intentional partnerships.

4) Embrace a philosophical worldview: One educational philosopher who championed the cause of literacy was Paulo Freire. Having explored Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed in my philosophy classes, I recognised that he emphasised the importance of critical literacy, whereby learners engage critically with the world around them. He believed that literacy should not be limited to basic reading and writing but should empower individuals to question, analyse, and transform their reality.

Freire's philosophy resonates deeply with me as an educator and the Jamaican context. It aligns with our cultural inclination towards storytelling, oral traditions, and a rich history of social activism. It underscores the idea that literacy is not just a skill but a tool for social change and empowerment.

Literacy is the cornerstone of progress in the Jamaican society, and celebrating Literacy Day is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to this cause. Teachers, schools, parents, and policymakers must collaborate to nurture a generation of literate and critically engaged Jamaicans. It is through united efforts that we can unlock the transformative power of literacy for all Jamaicans.

Leroy Fearon Jr is a lecturer of philosophy, author of seven books, and literacy advocate. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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